6th September 2021
Leigh sent these fascinating close-up pictures of crucian scales.
From: The Imperial Angler
To: Peter Rolfe
Sent: 6th September 2021
Subject: Crucians Up Close
Good morning Peter,
With Harry, returning to school tomorrow, we thought we would try our chances with my lucky Edgar Sealey Supreme cane rod and centrepin at a water not too far from home.
Initially the roach and small perch came along first before the crucians came along.
Harry also caught his PB and the biggest perch I've seen.
I took some photos with a macro lens of the scales. Really interesting to see the way the scale is made up.
October 3rd 2021
Chris sent me a few pictures from Spain of the dread Gibel Carp.
To: Peter Rolfe
Date: 03 October 2021
Subject: Re: Update
It's great to see the progress being made Peter, thanks for the update.
I was recently on a fishing holiday in Spain on the river Ebro and caught a few silver crucians, which I wasn't even aware existed before I went. They appear a bit bigger than ours on average, with 4lb fish being caught fairly regularly, although the biggest I had was 1lb 8oz. Thought you might be interested to see them.
June 18th 2021
John Spilsbury has been in touch. The occasion he refers to was when he and others fished the Saxon Ponds as winners in the Angling Trust ‘Photograph a Crucian’ competition in 2017:
It has been a long time since that enjoyable, post crucian competition day, down on your fishery. Hope you remain well. I continue to love the fish, such fascinating and often utterly gorgeous creatures. Having a ponder about high backs. It seems from the scientific paper, that individual fish can develop a high back in the presence of predators. I admit to being surprised by that, instead thinking that only evolutionary pressure over very long periods of time might cause such development. One water I have been fishing recently, a 3 acre reservoir, has no pike, and no perch of any significant size. I don't know how long crucians have been in there but some fish are obviously getting on in years, and others, possibly from recent stockings are younger. There is a large variety of shape. The photos are 1) a VERY high backed individual, and 2) a photo I put in mainly because of its wonderful show of attitude. All are from the same water. None of the noticeably older fish have developed high backs. Is the high back supported by extra spinal curvature? I guess it must be.
All of the club ponds lack pike and sizeable perch. One looks as if it will/has become a superb crucian breeding pond, although it is occasionally fished, mainly by myself, it being shallow, weedy, gin clear and not easy to fish. The club has on occasion bought farmed crucians, and it makes me wonder whether any of the farms produce stock fish which already have the built in genetics for high backs...although the scientific paper on your site would suggest the effect is more environmental due to the presence of nearby pike. Farmed fish would seem the only logical reason that some of our fish are almost as deep as they are long, and for there to be a genetic difference in these fish.
In another part of your correspondence the question was asked about whether the fish feed only at night or only near covering vegetation in pike infested waters. On one Cheshire Mere years ago, I only caught them very near the lily pads, daytime. They were not present in large numbers, so were a challenge. There were many pike present. The extensive pad beds are all gone now, supposedly due to feeding Canada geese. The crucians have also all gone. Another water I fish has had a good population of crucians, with no breeding successes, for many years. The fish range from 1-8 to 2-12. Plenty of pike present. I catch then anywhere in the lake, well away from pads. The remaining crucians are very much the tail end of the population. On the reservoir mentioned above, I have also found it easiest to catch them away from the pads. It is interesting to speculate whether, with the pads nearby, the crucians in the area are spending much of their time actually in the pads, so avoiding the open areas next to the pads. In pad free areas, they have nowhere to hide, and perhaps don't bother seeking shelter. If shelter is visible nearby, maybe they use it, if not, they are not particularly concerned. I have yet to fish for them at night.
Just a few musings,
From: peter Rolfe
Sent: 18 June 2021
Jay, how good to hear from you. I remember the day well!
Much has changed at the 'Saxon Ponds' since then, as you can see on the website. The ponds have a new, very rich owner and she is planning to spend a lot of money on re-landscaping the ponds, starting with the lower one, which has been plagued with leaks and cormorants. It is derelict at the moment, awaiting dredging, etc. in the autumn. When it is finally drained we shall rescue what fish remain and put them in the Upper Pond temporarily.
The Upper Pond is still a good fishery - last season we had crucians to 2lbs, a roach of 2lbs 3oz and a tench of 5lbs+. Plenty of hand-sized crus as well.
Anyway, to your musings.
My experiments at the Wetland, with pike let loose on a big population of tiddler crus, with a rod-cropped control pond for some sort of meaningful comparison, proved to my satisfaction that the scientists tank experiences are replicated in the wild. The predated population indeed rapidly developed much higher backs than the unpredated ones. This was borne out accidentally in two other ponds in the chain. So it's a response rather than an evolution.
'The History of Scandinavian Fishes' - a really scientific and thorough work from the beginning of the last century - suggests that this change of shape remains until over-crowding results in a new generation of low-backed ('pond') crucians, with the original fish presumably gradually deteriorating.
So I suppose your varied shaped crucians may have come from different sources, some having contact with predators, some not. I don't know whether high-backed fish produce high-backed offspring. I suspect that they do unless over-crowded. I suppose that means that the high back can be both genetic and environmentally sustained. I don't think it's just a question of high backs developing initially just from generous space and feeding. At least, that's what my 'Wetland' experiments suggest.
Yes, our Upper Pond crucians hang out in the plentiful white water lily beds. Equally, at the 'Victorian Estate Lakes' they seemed to favour swims with overhanging willows and alders. Seems like they enjoy a roof over their heads.
I wonder if crucians that develop a high back in their youth in reaction to small perch, retain that high back as adults. Our crucians at the 'Saxon Ponds' have what I would describe as medium backs. Would they be deeper in shape if the predation continued in adulthood from pike or bigger perch? I guess that they would, from what I have seen of other waters like Milton Abbey, where the record came from and where there are many big pike.
I too muse over these things, remaining grateful that we still have plenty of crucians in our pond, though the menace of cormorants is an ever-present problem.
Very best wishes
From: John Spilsbury
Sent: 18 June 2021
Thanks Peter. Your observations seem to back up the scientific article very well. Glad to have the extra data, as it is something that has festered in the silt that has gathered in the lower recesses of my mind. Something that has just been triggered, is that when I have been doing well with crucians away from any form of cover, it has always been in deeper water, 6 feet or more. So maybe the lack of light at those depths effectively has been providing them with the cover they prefer.
Other interesting things at those greater depths in the waters I fish: Crucians seem to quite often make a vertical dash to the surface, making an almost diagnostically characteristic splash, and then go straight back down, with a bite frequently following. That they seem to do so mainly very near my float would suggest strongly it is behaviour linked to food and feeding. Yesterday one overcooked it, and cleared the water by a good foot. The only one I have ever seen clear the water.
Increasingly clubs seem to be stocking waters with crucian carp, and it is well to the good. I feel the danger of UK extinction is fading fast. My local club has 5 ponds, all with crucians, and plans to add some more. It is why I joined them.
Thanks again. Feel free to add this or an extract to your conversations pages if you so wish.
June 18th 2021
Geoff Colmer's been crucian fishing at Mill Lodge Farm Fishery.
April 22nd 2021
Geoff Colmer's been crucian fishing at Eye Kettleby.
From: Geoff Colmer
Sent: 22 April 2021
Subject: 219 Eye Kettleby
Since the closure of Homeclose Fishery in Leicestershire I have been on the look-out for an alternative venue nearby where I may catch, on occasion, the odd crucian.
One such venue is the holiday complex at Eye Kettleby, which is located just outside Melton Mowbray of pork pie fame.
This holiday complex caters for over-night caravans, glamping, and luxurious log cabins that are available to rent. Pretty much focussed on adults and not children. The grounds are well-kept. The complex team manage it in a friendly and professional manner. There is a clubhouse that has a café/ bar/ restaurant for anyone that wants hot food from breakfast onwards.
The lakes are set-up for pleasure anglers on holiday, rather than matches or those wanting to be engulfed by nature. On entering the grounds of Eye Kettleby you drive slightly up-hill and through (electronic) iron gates. On your right you will see a carpers lake with the odd bivvy present. After 100 yards through these gates the road turns sharply to the left - follow it. Speed is reduced, here, as there are dog walkers about.
Follow the road, after the turn, for 50 yards and you will see a small lake on your left and a few more on your right. Do not stop, but continue another 50 yards until you see the clubhouse (large building) on your right with its car park. You can park here or in the car park of the complex's reception, which is a separate building immediately to the left of the clubhouse.
It is in their reception that you purchase your day ticket. The reception opens at 8am, but do check before you travel. You cannot start fishing until you buy your ticket and they will not sell tickets on the bank side. There is a dip tank outside reception for your nets and mats. They do offer some dry baits for sale and some soft drinks in reception, but also look to the clubhouse for more refreshments. Their day ticket pricing splits the carp lakes from coarse lakes, either one rod or two. In 2021, the day ticket price for one rod on the coarse lakes is £9 (nine).
To target crucians you need a coarse lakes ticket, although these lakes all hold king carp. This ticket allows you to fish lakes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. So, you may switch lakes during the session if that suits. On each lake there is a sign which lets you know what fish they contain.
In my experience, these give a rough guide only, so do not take them as being precise. Eye Kettleby's website describes each lake and its species, so go to the internet for where they say they have stocked crucian. However, if it is your first visit to the complex then I suggest lake 3 as I have caught lots of crucians here.
For lake 3, park at the clubhouse and walk down to the lake, which is immediately in front of this building. This is a 20 yards walk or so, and access is very good, but less so for anyone in a wheelchair. At each end of the lake there is space for two or three cars if you want to access these areas.
This lake is long and thin running north to south, approximately 230 yards long and 20-50 yards wide at any point along its length. Averages 3 to 6 feet deep, but gets deeper at the north end. Lake 3 holds a lot, I mean, a lot of fish (as do all their coarse lakes). Stocked to the brim with king carp, tench, perch, bream, other silvers, and crucians.
The bank side is grass and relatively (not completely) flat. It does get very slippery when it has been raining. I normally target the margin. Hard against the reeds in 2.5 foot of water. Ideally a nice warm day. Loose feed plenty and keep it up. These fish are always hungry. I have found groundbait less effective.
On my best day I had over 30 crucians between 6 and 12 ounces intermingled with plenty of skimmers. Be warned that king carp grow over 20lbs in this water, but you can often see them approach along the margin, so I lift my rig out of the way until they pass.
Must admit I like lake 3 because when I am hungry, I can just pop into the clubhouse for a bacon sandwich. Lazy fishing, I know.
However, the image I send is of a crucian taken (April 2021) from lake 5 (parking adjacent to lake). Here, I was actually after this lake's monster perch. Seen pictures of perch in excess of 5lbs. There are king carp in this lake but most are sub-5lbs. This fish was not in great condition to be honest, but I believe it to be a true crucian of just over 1lb. The dorsal, not shown, was the right shape but a bit worse for wear and a tad damaged.
Is Eye Kettleby fishing for the crucian connoisseur? No. But you will have plenty of action and a lot of fun, plus, a nice fry-up in the clubhouse upon arrival. My search for an alternative to Homeclose continues, but Eye Kettleby will do in the meanwhile.
Andrew added some further thoughts on the advantages of having longer pectorals and pelvics if you’re a male crucian (or tench), in response to the news article from February 26th 2021.
February 2nd 2021
Some correspondence with Andreas Mayday regarding crucian stocking and conservation in Germany.
From: Andreas Maday - Anglerverband Niedersachsen e.V.
Sent: 02 February 2021
Subject: Crucian carp stocking
Dear Mr. Rolfe,
I was very happy when I did some research on the web looking information about crucian carp conservation and ended up finding your homepage. You definitely offer a lot of information for interested people.
Unfortunately, to my knowledge no such information is existing in German language...However, crucian carp populations are also rather declining than increasing in Germany which, I think should be reversed.
Now to my person, I am a fisheries biologist working in an angler association in Lower Saxony, Germany and my intention is to increase the anglers’ awareness about this interesting and endangered species. Actually many of our member clubs are interested in conservation programs and hence with their help there is a great potential to increase the crucian distribution in our area. However I have to mention, that angling for crucian carp is by far less popular (and more general the whole coarse fish fishing) compared to the ambition of British anglers.
Luckily, we were able to isolate some of the last pure remaining crucian carps from the largest lake in Lower Saxony. Additionally, some fish farmers reproduce this strain in their facilities hence production of stocking material is not a problem. I am also trying to identify more small fish farmers that might possess old, local crucian carp stocks. Thus, we might be able to offer local stocking material to the angling clubs.
However, so far I was unable to find information about stocking densities of crucian carp, and we also never did trials (in accordance to different stocking densitities/numbers of individuals and the size classes) to evaluate its impact on the stocking success.
According to your website, you have stocked quite plenty of waterbodies. Do you have any information about stocking densities (number of fish per hectare + size class)? I am aware that waterbodies are all unique in their own way (e.g. morphology, water chemistry, competition, predation) and hence a final number is for sure difficult to state, but is there any rule of thumb which you use when it comes to stocking new waterbodies?
I would especially be interested in the two cases - (a) good environmental conditions – no competition – no predation vs. (b) good environmental conditions but also potential competition by other coarse fish and predation.
I am looking forward to hearing from you and thank you a lot in advance!
Best greetings from Germany
Andreas, I wish that my German were as good as your English!
I must apologise for the delay in replying. I began to do so and then got distracted by my work on the website – but that is no excuse. I will try to do better!
We are in the process of reorganising the website – it has grown in a rather haphazard way and shortly should be easier to navigate.
However, to address your particular queries:
• Most of the waters I have stocked have been very small by your standards, I guess, maximum one and a half hectares, mostly no more than a few hundred square metres.
• Where there is no predation (very difficult to achieve because even benign species like roach can compete severely, I’ve found) the choice is yours: either a small number of broodstock or a larger number of smaller fish.
• I can’t be precise about numbers, except to say that in small ponds I’ve usually put about 30 breeding fish, to be fairly sure of having both sexes. Incidentally, on the website you’ll find some interesting observations on sexing crucians outside of the breeding season by Andrew Cooper in the ‘Garden Ponds’ page.
• In bigger waters I’ve stocked with as many as several hundred 4”-6” fish. As you know, crucians can spawn from a very early age and very small size.
• Where there is competition from other species, the task is very much more difficult because (a) crucians are very vulnerable to predation and (b) fry survival is compromised by even benign fish like roach
• In this sort of situation I recommend at least annual stocking with crucians in the hope that some will survive.
• I cannot be more precise than this. If you can get hold of a copy of my ‘Crock of Gold – Seeking the Crucian Carp’ there is more stuff there. Also on the website under ‘Natural History and Management’ – ‘Producing Good Crucian Fishing’.
I hope that helps, vague though it is, Andreas. Please get back to me if I can help further and I’ll be more punctual in my response!
From: Andreas Maday
Sent: 08 February 2021
Thanks a lot for your detailed answer. I really like your website and I will share the link with the English speaking pond manager community in the future - it is a great example of how angling and conservation can work together.
Also thanks a lot for the stocking advice:
Especially the sexing was one thing that I did not have in mind, but definitely makes sense. I will forward this information to our pond manager – maybe we can also sex our fish. However I guess it will be hard for angling clubs to order presexed fish from other crucian producers.
Also, I like the idea (and will propose it to the anglers) of having a single species nursery pond, which can be used for annual harvest of “surplus production”. This material can afterwards be stocked in multispecies waterbodies with predator abundance to produce fish that are also interesting for anglers.
I found - unfortunately in German only – a scientific publication where report about stocking crucian carps in newly created ponds (for crucian conservation – “normal” predator regime – whatever that means ;-), I guess insects and piscivorous birds). As you can see in the table they varied concerning the initial stocking numbers (30 – 443 individuals, 2 y/o) - during later monitoring they found in 6 of the 8 waterbodies signs of successful crucian carp reproduction.
Here is the link to this publication: "10 Years of Fish Protection Projects in the Steinhuder Meer-Niederung, Lower Saxony".
So all in all, another “sign” that the crucians are highly reproductive when conditions are right. Hence there is no right answer concerning the stocking densities...
I have one last question which I struggle a little bit with. So, after all that I have read, reproduction between carp × crucian is possible and hybrids are existing. For Giebel carp and goldfish it is clear that crucian stocking is a waste of money and might be potentially leading to stockings of hybrids, hence when these species are abundant (luckily they are not occurring that often Lower Saxony).
However, the carp is one of the most popular fish being stocked in our angling clubs (as it only rarely reproduces naturally in German waterbodies) and hence might be abundant in plenty of potential waterbodies. How serious is carp × crucian hybridization, and is the abundance of carp in a waterbody an indicator to “prohibit” or to advise against crucian stocking?
What do you think about this?
December 22nd 2020
Geoff Colmer has got back in touch with some fishery news.
From: Geoff Colmer
Sent: 22nd December 2020
Hello again, Peter
A couple of points of information:
 Snitterfield 327 and Napton 326 reservoirs
My brother is a member of the angling society that governs these waters. I have fished Snitterfield myself as a guest. Both waters contain king carp by the way. Snitterfield was stocked with true crucians a while back and they have reached an average of 1lb to 1.5lb. They look very healthy and have been caught through January and February 2021.
Not fished Napton, yet, but will as soon as weather warms up. Crucians a little larger here. I am told through club reports they do hit 2lbs and more.
 Loss of Homeclose Fishery in Leicestershire.
Having caught many beautiful crucians in Homeclose’s Ash Lake I was rather disappointed that it closed. Have been fishing Eye Kettleby (also Leicestershire) during the winter for their enormous perch. EK has plenty of small crucians (6 to 10oz) but I have never checked whether they are true or not. People tell me they grow bigger but I never seen any myself.
The other day I arrived at EK but the gates were closed to fisherman.
Quick check on Goggle maps to see whether there was another venue nearby. Few miles of driving got me to a small natural pond in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Leicestershire. Got lost on the way a couple of times. Met the farmer and paid up.
We chatted a while. In conversation he mentioned the pond contained crucians. I asked him whether they were hybrids or true crucians as there were king carp in the pond. He said they were true and of a very decent size.
I shall endeavour to catch one and take some detailed photographs to help determine their trueness. Once I have, I will let you know the location as it is not listed on your site. Lovely and isolated location. Habitat looks perfect.
Watch this space!
March 29th 2020
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 29 March 2020
I hope that you are keeping well? I have been meaning to get in touch for a few months now to update you on all things 'Cruciany' here in Staffordshire. Time has flown and I have singularly failed to get all my thoughts, photos etc in one place! That email will have to follow at some point during this confinement, as I have just read that you are down to the last few copies of "One Last Cast"! Hopefully you have not yet run out? If not, please let me know how I can go about ordering a copy from you.
Andrew, Good Evening,
I have about 40 left so no panic. I’ll keep one back for you and get in touch once this Covid thing has passed – until then we’re staying isolated, being over a certain age.
Thank you for your interest.
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 26 June 2020
I hope you are still keeping well, and that you have been able to find plenty to occupy your time during lockdown. I promised in my last email that I would send a longer missive regarding crucians; the enforced time at home has extended these thoughts into something resembling an essay; I apologise and hope you will indulge me in reading it! I've attached this as a document named 'Crucians'. The other attachments are hopefully all explained within this essay. I apologise in advance if I seem to be instructing you on the toothless consumption of ova at any point!
Andrew, thank you so much for the fascinating material. I haven’t yet digested it all though already I can add a few comments – I’ve taken the unusual step of printing your essay to give it full attention over my morning coffee!
I will get back to you when I feel I have done justice to all your hard work.
Response to Andrew Cooper’s email on crucians - see the ‘Garden Ponds’ page.
Paragraph by paragraph seems the easiest way to do it, Andrew. Hope you can follow it.
The black patch on the tail end of crucian (and tench) fry has always puzzled me too. It can only be for identification by other crucians, do you think? But why? Adult crucians, like other fish eat their own fry but I can’t believe they do that selectively – so why the id check!
Spawning in the Victorian Estate Lakes followed the same sequence year after year: common carp, crucians, then tench. I think that it is when this sequence is upset by weather conditions or something else that cross breeding is more likely. Only very occasionally did we find crucian × common carp hybrids (C19/early C20 kollari, today’s daftly named “f1”). Once we did have a problem with this when brood carp and crucians were stocked in a newly rejuvenated pond. I raised 100's of golden tench from just a dozen parents in the early years of the Victorian Estate lakes and big ones still turn up in anglers’ catches from those we retained – most we sold.
Your crus have grown well, haven’t they but are they four times as long as when you put them in!
My experience with ruffe/pope is limited to catching them on the Waveney many years ago and I rather assumed they were a river species – obviously not!
As you know I spent plenty of time restoring field ponds in the 1970s and 80s and they very quickly became overrun with tiny crucians.
Yes, spawning of goldfish too in my ponds seems often to take place when a cool spell follows a hot one.
I suppose the females look more pregnant as the eggs take on water prior to extrusion, hence the repeated swelling. I have seen crucians spawn in water lily beds.
Repeat spawning of course accounts for the different sizes among the same year class.
Activity in Winter
When I kept crucians, after about the end of September I never saw them except after dark, when they would come and feed off the shelf in quite cold weather. We caught them throughout the winter after dark in the Victorian Estate Lakes.
I hope not! Certainly I’ve never seen any crucians with scaling that suggests such a thing, though I do wonder why the slotting on the lat line scales is so intermittent or lacking. Does this make them less aware of their surroundings and is that an explanation of their vulnerability to predation? That would be peculiar evolution.
In 19th/early 20th centuries the “crucian” and “Prussian” descriptions seem to refer to the high-backed and low-backed forms respectively. The fish was also known as the German carp and Hamburg carp. “Gibel” was often used of the “Prussian”- not a reference to the modern curse of Carassius gibelio, which is spreading west across Europe and which is one of the reasons for the decline in Carassius carassius.
This happens with our crucians too, perhaps one fish in 50, with the fish apparently none the worse – though I have not seen it in the bigger fish.
The Gibel in the UK
I have at last persuaded people to take this threat seriously, I think. It is with the EA at the moment, though what action is taken remains to be seen.
Andrew’s response to my response!
I hadn’t considered that the black patch may be for identification, could it be that this is to assist in shoaling with others of the same kind? This does seem particularly important to some fish; I know the solitary roach in my pond cannot decide whether he is a rudd or a crucian. Another, possibly more outlandish, idea is that it functions in some way like an eye spot (as in butterflies or peacocks). Could it be that it looks like a second eye, making the fish appear larger than it is? Or could it be that the ‘eye’ being close to the tail would cause a predator to come up short on the strike? This, if I recall correctly, was the thinking behind moving the red tail on some trout lures to the throat area – to make a trout hit the lure further forward.
It is strange that spawning of the various species is so clearly demarcated, I wonder if this is purely environmental, (in which case surely you would expect very similar conditions to exist for each spawning) or whether there is some instinct or even chemical marker (e.g. a pheromone) involved? With regard to ‘F1’ carp, it is a shame that the kollari name has passed out of use and has been replaced with a term that is often scientifically incorrect. How many anglers (or ichthyologists) can discern an F1 hybrid from an F2 without a DNA analysis? I must admit to being very uncomfortable with the idea that these fish are deliberately and artificially created to satisfy the desires of anglers. Surely if someone wants to catch a weighty cyprinid that feeds well in cold water, they should go chub fishing?
I may not have been especially clear regarding the growth rate of my crucians! They are now possibly 7-8” long, but due to the associated increase in depth and width, the largest are now possibly 4 times as massive.
Peering into my pond today, I think the idea of it being overrun with tiny crucians is very likely, there appear to be another group of this year’s fry that have become free swimming. I do hope to get my original fish to a good size, so I will clearly have to look at offloading youngsters in future years.
I wonder whether the warmer weather causes the eggs to ripen, the sudden drop in temperature then shocks the fish into spawning due to the risk of conditions deteriorating? Or is it to do with dissolved oxygen levels being higher when the temperature drops, resulting in greater survival of the fry?
I think you are correct regarding fish taking on water prior to spawning. The females seemed large throughout April and May, probably due to egg production, and must have swollen further immediately prior to the first spawning. Immediately afterwards, they were considerably smaller, similar in girth to the males. They never attained the same size prior to the second and third spawnings, so I assume the quantity of eggs produced/shed must have been smaller.
I imagine that there is probably a hierarchy of preference for spawning media, my fish expend the vast majority of their efforts amongst the hornwort, but this covers around one third of the pond’s surface at this time of the year, whereas the irises and lilies cover a much smaller area and offer less protection and a smaller spawning surface.
Crucian Feeding Habits
Crucians are incredibly infuriating! I sometimes wish I had an underwater camera so that I could see why I miss so very many bites. Certainly the fish in my pond have given me some pointers, how useful these pointers are without resorting to self-hooking rigs, I’m not sure...
I’ve fed my crucians sweetcorn, they don’t think it’s that soft! Small pieces seem fine, not, I think because of the size, as some suggest, but because the soft inside of the grain is exposed. Whole grains are sampled, rejected and seldom picked up again. They were the same at first with maggots, whilst casters were devoured greedily. Having fed them regularly last year, maggots have become more readily accepted; they obviously found them worth the effort. Perhaps they would be the same with corn.
For my own fishing, I seldom use anything but bread. I use a large punch (I think they are sold for luncheon meat) to create two or three discs. Unlike tearing a flake by hand, this keeps compression to a minimum (only a neat ring around the edge) and results in a bait that, when swollen in the water, fills a light-wire size 10 hook. The size of the bait deters all but the larger roach, but a 1lb crucian has no problem with it.
I’m still confused by my observations of my fish bubbling. I had always believed that the tiny bubbles we see must be emitted from the gills, and that they only appear when the fish are head-down into silt. It may be that this is often the case, and it may also be that some fish are flatulent and expel from the vent. But when I have seen my fish collecting gas from soft weed and blowing it out of their mouth, the resulting bubbles have been very much like those I see when fishing. I do think that this is linked to feeding behaviour, it certainly happens when the fish are actively browsing.
Activity in Winter
I bow to your greater experience and shall be taking a torch out on mild evenings this winter! I’ll let you know what I find.
Sexing Outside the Breeding Season
I think that your supposition is correct. Having watched the tench and crucians this summer, the males are clearly competing to be alongside the female when she releases her eggs. The exaggerated pelvics of male tench must surely provide a sexual advantage. Without a slow-motion camera it is difficult to be certain, but I have a few suggestions: The strength of these fins could help the male to manoeuvre the female; they may be used to ward off rival males, they may help with the fast changes in direction the males make to stay alongside, or they may be used to direct the flow of milt towards the eggs as they are released. It may of course be a combination of any, all or none of these! Certainly the spawning behaviour of crucians is not so very different, and something that gives a male tench an advantage would surely give a similar advantage in a crucian. I’m meaning to examine any crucians I catch more closely to see whether I can detect any similar differences in another population.
I wish that the 19th century authors were more reliable so that we could be sure! I read an account (in an American government publication from the early 20th Century) that suggested tench and carp can hybridise, but I don’t believe anyone has ever seen that either. The poorly-aligned scales on my crucians could just as easily be due to rough handling when young...
Am I correct in thinking Prussian Carp seems to be a description confined to Britain? Giebel (or a derivative) seems to have been the preferred name on the continent amongst those that thought it a separate species. It was hearing Martin Bowler’s pronunciation of crucian (which perhaps unsurprisingly sounded different to my own) that made me question whether a simple mis-hearing and subsequent assumption could be the origin. I imagine ‘Hamburg carp’ would have come about due to Hamburg being the port from which the fish were shipped?
Should I more correctly have written malformed fish? Deforming would suggest that they started out normal. Two percent surviving with apparently serious malformation seems quite high doesn’t it? I think, anecdotally, the rate of malformation in crucians is higher than in other species. Is this a positive: Because crucians are stronger and can withstand this more readily? Or a concerning negative: like the Hapsburg lip, genetic diversity is worryingly low... We need to get populations more widely DNA tested to be sure.
The Gibel in the UK
I’m glad this potential issue is starting to be taken seriously. I’m concerned that the prevalence of stocking every available hole in the ground with hybrid carp of unknown pedigree is increasing the chance of an accidental introduction. Who can tell at a glance whether one grey cyprinid amongst a container full is a potential timebomb for our crucians? As anglers we have a responsibility to safeguard our stocks for future generations, I think we must start by educating the tastes of our fellow anglers, convincing them of the joys of fishing for something other than a big weight of fish.
What is your opinion on the Angler’s Mail fish? For me, there are too many scales for a brown goldfish (I make 31 on the lateral line). Other than the height of the dorsal and a tinge of yellow on the head, I can see no obvious crucian traits to make me think goldfish × crucian, and it seems too deep in the body for a carp × goldfish. I just have no idea what a pure Gibel really looks like!
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 29 June 2020
Do you know if it is possible to obtain a printed copy of the 'Crucian Chronicle', or if there are plans for any more?
Andrew, more later, but if you go on to 'Facebook' and somehow access the ACA page – Association of Crucian Anglers – and enquire there you may get some info. If you can’t do that, let me know and I’ll try for you.
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 29 June 2020
I imagine you have already seen pictures of the current Swedish record crucian, caught in 2016 at 3050g (approx. 6lbs 11½oz) ...one can only imagine how popular crucians would be if they achieved similar weights here.
Andrew, yes I’ve seen the Swedish record cru – very like the one in COG, perhaps from the same water.
Andrew goes on to describe more of what he has noticed about how to tell male from female crucians, which you can see here under 'garden ponds'. He then backs this up as follows:
I’ve attached images of fish I have caught this season that I believe support this observation. The first is a readily identifiable female fish of 1lb 15oz (I caught this fish last season, when carrying spawn and was over 2lbs). The second is, I think, another female fish of 1lb 6oz and had a very empty belly, possibly suggesting being spawned out? The last image is the blunt-headed fish I mentioned in a previous email. I believe this to be a male; notice the comparatively bright and large lower fins?
Catching the 1lb 15oz fish again this year has made me consider the age of the crucians in this water. Last year she was a bright and healthy looking fish of just over 2lbs. Although still beautiful, she now has an aged appearance. Her scales have darkened, but this may be due to improved water clarity since a number of king carp were removed from the pool. Her fins are more ragged and the bottom two rays of her tail have broken off. Most noticeable are the cataracts that seem to be developing on both eyes.
Re:Sexing outside the breeding season
How interesting. I wonder if this is the same for all fish, just overtly obvious in tench. Perhaps the pelvics have a function to go with their difference. Room for research there.
From: Andrew Cooper
Peter, I don’t know when they were stocked, but there are photos on the internet from 2008 showing crucians of around 1lb from this water (I imagine the stock would have been four or five years old at this point (is that a reasonable assumption for a 1lb fish?), so they are now approaching their 20th year. The club has introduced a further 100 small fish this year, none too soon I think.
I noticed the message from John Johnstone you received in August 2016 regarding a record crucian he caught in the 1970’s. This fish is mentioned in a collection of Jack Hilton’s articles ‘Quest for the Best’, published by the Little Egret Press. Jack had clear doubts that it was a true crucian and, reading between the lines, perhaps believed it was a crucian × common hybrid. Sadly, the publishers replaced the original image from the Angler’s Mail with a picture of Jack Hilton holding a true crucian (although they retained the caption questioning the fish’s authenticity!). Perhaps John could obtain a copy of his photo from the Angler’s Mail archives?
Previously I had suggested that the Crucians in Napton reservoir were most likely transferees from nearby Stockton reservoir. I’ve since found a reference to Napton fish in Phil Smith’s ‘Rainbow’s End’, published in 1987. Phil seemed to think that 3lb fish were a possibility, but sport was inconsistent. It sounds like little has changed there in 30+ years.
I have been busy adding to my library and have a backlog and I am looking forward to reading ‘One Last Cast’.
Andrew, thanks once again for your meticulous observation.
I’d like to put our correspondence on the website if you have no objection?? I know it would be useful to others.
To my knowledge here, crucians at the Victorian Estate lakes began to decline in numbers at about 20 years, which may tie in with your experience.
Yes, I think it’s right that tench grow faster than crucians. I have had them reach 20cm in their second year under fish farming conditions – i.e. a limited number of tench (1000) to a cleared and limed pond of 40m × 25m. Crucians can grow quite quickly under similar conditions but the tench outstrip them.
The Hilton fish is genuine, I’m sure. I wrote to Mr Johnson asking him for a pic of the “record” crucian but received no reply. There has always been some confusion about common carp × crucian hybrids, which as f1s are easy enough to identify. I doubt very much whether the crucian × goldfish hybrid was known much about in Jack Hilton’s day. But it is by far the commoner hybrid in my experience, except where there has been a mass stocking of f1s for match fishing.
The new record claim fish looks genuine to me but some will question it because it comes from a water where there are also big common/mirror carp. There’s need for caution in such a case but only back-crossing would result in a hybrid crucian look-alike, I think: the first cross is obvious, as I said earlier. We just don’t know enough about back-crossing, how common it is and what the resulting fish look like – an opportunity for further research for you, Andrew!
Thank you for your fascinating emails.
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 31st July 2020
I've noticed that catches of crucians at the pool seem to have declined, I was concerned that this might be due to predation, but I now think age is probably the dominant factor. I do wonder how this relates to other waters: Is it possible that the fish in Napton, for example, are much longer-lived (they would surely be 40+, if they are the original stock fish), or do they occasionally have some spawning success to replace their numbers? Might it be that different strains have different life expectancies? I believe this is the case with king carp, where certain strains are known as particularly long-lived. 'Leney' strain carp, such as those in Redmire, have been documented at 60 or 70+ years.
It seems the crucians at Milton Abbas were known about prior to the new record being caught, but the presence of a crucian like this, in a carp syndicate water, raises new questions. How many other syndicate waters around the country hold small numbers of crucians, growing huge on a diet a HNV baits? How many have been returned unreported?
I am happy for you to put anything I've sent you (apart from my address!) on the website, please let me know if you want anything I've written clarified or expanded upon (I'm sure I'd be horrified at my grammar if I read it all back!).
P.S. I imagine you have already been asked for your opinion on the potential new record featured in this week’s Angling Times? I’ve attached pictures of the relevant pages if you are yet to see it...
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 1st August 2020
I just tried to search on-line for a photo of John Johnstone's fish, using the search term 'Jack Hilton crucian'. I didn't find what I was looking for (it was a long-shot!), but I did find an interesting picture of a Marsh Farm fish showing the swirling scale pattern I mentioned in my first email. I think this is the closest thing I've seen to a 'Mirror Crucian', and in a DNA tested water too. An alternative explanation could be that this is healed damage from early in life.
It appears that a similar scale pattern is found in goldfish and has been termed 'Batik' scaling. The breeders on this forum seem to think it stems from too much inbreeding.
I do think that the most likely mirror ‘crucian’ is a mirror carp × crucian hybrid, if it’s ever going to happen, but this one is interesting. Doesn’t quite look like healed damage, does it.
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 16th August 2020
Hi Peter, I just wanted to thank you for the book, it arrived safely yesterday. It's really lovely, I don't think the images online do it justice. Trevor's illustrations are exquisite and the few chapters I have read are very atmospheric; I look forward to reading the rest later. It does very much feel like a companion volume to 'The net on the garage wall'.
Thank you also for your kind inscription, I'm not sure I feel worthy of being described as a fellow expert, I'm sure that I'm more of an inquisitive and enthusiastic amateur! I'm sure an expert wouldn't miss as many bites as I do!! I shall have to do better to justify the epithet...
There is an online version of the AT story about the new record and a follow-up about a brace of four-pounders taken by the same angler since! I thought they may be of interest for the website. Apparently these fish were stocked in 2002 (as 6" fish) by Mark 'Simmo' Simmonds of Heather Fisheries and had reached almost 4lbs in 2012.
From: Andrew Cooper
Sent: 20th September 2020
Peter, thank for your email. I did really enjoy the book, though it has now been packed safely away whilst we have some building work done. I'm very much looking forward to your Trent Otter books now; you are becoming incredibly prolific!
I don't have much to report on the crucians in my pond. The heron's attacks have driven the fish deep into the weed and, despite creating a heron-fence from nylon monofilament criss-crossing the margins, they refuse to feed in daylight, so I see very little of them. I do occasionally see some of this year's youngsters though, and they are growing well.
I did have a strange experience with the Kingstanding Pool crucians that is possibly worth mentioning: I caught the same two crucians on consecutive visits, including the 1lb 15oz fish I described before. I suppose that there are few of these original fish left, so fishing in the same place, using the same methods, is bound to render the same result!
Andrew, sorry to be so slow replying to your very interesting email, which I’ll one day soon get round to putting on the website – how is it possible to be so busy during lockdown!?
I’ve often thought that the incomplete slotting on the crucian’s lat line is a possible explanation for their being so vulnerable to predation. If their awareness of the world around them is limited and more visual than other-sensory, then that may be something to research further. I don’t know if any scientist has explored the relative efficiencies of lateral line sensitivity in different species – seems unlikely.
Perhaps the fecundity of crucians is the evolutionary response to their vulnerability but it’s difficult to see what advantages a less efficient sensory system can be. Poor crucian – everything wants to eat them. They’re very easy to trap and net, too.
Food for thought.
June 20th 2019
More crucian fishing from Gary Cullum:
From: Gary Cullum
Sent: 20 June 2019 22:45
To: Peter Rolfe
Subject: Crucian pool
I'm about to start targeting the 'occasional large crucian' in this one acre pool.
It averages only 2-3 ft in depth and is very silted up with a couple of feet of softish silt. Years of tree leaf debris I assume.
Not as many lilies as I was hoping when I saw the pond last winter. Just a few weak sets of pads round two of the four sides. Quite a few overhanging trees only a couple of feet above surface.
Sadly there are 60 king carp. And they removed another 60 in recent years. Average size 5-9 lbs but one brute of 26 lbs remains. Stacks of bream and small silvers. Some green and golden tench but not caught that often I'm told. A few large perch. 'And some large crucian'.
I visited today and got talking to an 84 year old committee member. Very useful conversation. The banks are severely undercut which attracts some of the larger carp. Not sure it would attract crucian as I assume they'd want to escape any predators in all directions. Oh. Just a few jack pike left. A twenty six pounder, no doubt fat on crucians was moved out some years ago. In time I'll ask if the jacks can be removed. With such a shallow lake I'm sure We could net out half a tonne of small silvers if there are as many as I'm told there are.
So where to start my campaign tomorrow evening? I'm going to fish into dark hoping the silvers are asleep and won't feed much as don't want to attract the bream in - they average 3-4 pounds and there is a head of older fish of around 5-6 pounds. The pond sounds very overstocked to me.
I'm thinking my first few sessions should be around the stronger lily pads. Then if unsuccessful to try under the overhanging trees. But remain close to margin.
The gent today had a couple of crucian last year in a swim with no obvious features though was close to an overhanging conifer. There's a small central island that's eroding by the year, it has a six feet wide gravel bed around it where it's getting washed away. I noticed the feeder chuckers fishing tight to island. But they are match fishermen so assume they are looking for bream and carp.
Apart from watching the surface at dawn and dusk any other advice that may help.
The gent today said I'd just missed seeing a two and a half pound crucian. The chap who caught it had three kits set up - a whip, a long pole and a feeder rod so I don't know which line he was fishing when he caught it.
The crucian he caught in the corner last year weighed 3.15 and he 'lost a bigger one at the net the same day.'
He said he'd love to regrow some weed that once frequented the pond and helped during crucian spawning. He named the weed but I've no memory today. I get the impression the crucian are old and dying out.
Once the pond was full of gold bars but owner of huge house and estate in seventies ran into trouble. The gent said he thinks the owner drained or netted the pond and sold all the lucrative big fat gold bars.
I'm told the crucians are hard to locate and catch. I'll give it my best shot.
Tomorrow's bait is pearl barley in black treacle.
All the best
May 9th 2019
Geoff Colmer sent me this facinating tale:
From: Geoff Colmer
Sent: 09 May 2019 10:16
Subject: Snitterfield crucians
Tuesday last (7th May 2019) we visited Leamington Spa AA's venue at Snitterfield reservoir in Warwickshire. Never fished here before and I was there as the guest of a member. The entrance to the water is immediately off the busy A46 through locked gates. Beyond the gates is a well-kept single track that runs the whole length of this small reservoir to a parking area at a point furthest from the main road. You are able to stop along the track to unload but you must park in the car park itself. As already said, the water is not that big and the club have built a walkway all around, so any peg will not take that long to reach from the car park. This water is only used for fishing. It can be described as a concrete bowl filled with water: the banks are sloped and the 'banks' of concrete are covered in wild green growth (grass, brambles, moss, etc.). Access to the pegs is pretty good, but it may be unsuitable for those less abled due to the slope. The club have placed wooden platforms at most pegs to allow fishing to be relatively comfortable (and level!).
With rod and fixed spool we began fishing 20 to 25 feet out from the waters' edge using the waggler, 4lb mainline, with size 18 barbless to 1½lb hook length. The water's depth clearly increased the further out you went. I had set-up a 3BB waggler at 10 feet depth, picking up some small tench. When the friendly bailiff came around he advised moving into the margins for the crucians. The margins were free of weed, lily pads, and with the clear water you could easily see the concrete bottom. I then changed my shot pattern for lift bite indications and set the depth at about 2½ feet. I had thrown some pellets beneath the bows of a tree (fishy feature) to my right whilst re-rigging my waggler and by the time of my first cast there was fizzing in the swim. I lowered my small piece of prawn hook bait into the swim and within minutes I hit into a nice crucian. Picked up a few more in quick succession until the weather changed - loss of the warm sun and a coming on of a very chilly wind. After the change in weather the crucians went off the feed, but I did pick-up some small perch and a very large bream. The best crucian of the day (see image) looked in super condition and put up an excellent fight.
The water does include a few large carp, but this is one venue where you can fish for crucians on suitably light tackle. Really enjoyable short day session was had (until it got cold).
From: Peter Rolfe
Sent: 09 May 2019 13:14
To: Geoff Colmer
Subject: RE: Snitterfield crucians
Thanks, Geoff. How interesting. The cru looks to be a female in spawn, though that may be because of the way it's being held.
From: Geoff Colmer
Sent: 09 May 2019 14:38
To: 'Peter Rolfe'
Subject: RE: Snitterfield crucians
Hello there. I was holding this wonderful fish so that its body was forward of its tail, attached is another photo which may clarify things.
Happy for you to use text and images on your website. Venue doesn't need to be kept secret.
My brother (member of water) and I are off to Norfolk in June for a week. We hope to fish Rocklands Mere for crucians during that time.
From: Geoff Colmer
Sent: 29 June 2019 16:50
Subject: Rocklands Mere, Norfolk.
I must admit that, both, my brother and I appreciate those anglers that hunt king carp, but we do not possess a vehicle big enough to transport all the equipment they deign to haul to the bankside. Anyway, that is an aside, we had jointly decided to spend a week in Norfolk float fishing for tench and crucians at a couple of venues, with our digs being in the nice small market town of Wymondham (pronounced 'Wind-am'). This put us within easy reach of Rocklands Mere - a venue we had read much about on the internet.
Getting there. The village of Rockland St. Peter lies a handful of miles north, on the Watton road, off the main A11 (about 25 minutes south-west of Norwich). As you enter the village from the A11 you will see a Builders' merchant on your right and then the village cross where you turn right into Chapel Street. Here, please slow down, as you need to wind through a very pleasant road full of newer homes and older cottages. At a sharp turn in Chapel Street there is the entrance to the fishery. It is signed. The entrance is a long (300 yards) and straight single-track that leads past a small graveyard and farmhouse before reaching the fishery lodge and car park. The fishery opens at 8am (closes at dusk) with space for half a dozen cars or so.
The wooden lodge has a tackle shop (when open) and caters for the trout lake which lies adjacent. If there is no-one in the lodge you can leave your payment in an honesty box by its door. The Mere (coarse lake) is accessed through a small padlocked gate at the end of the car park furthest from the lodge. Please make sure you get the 3-digit code for this padlock, before your visit, as this gate must be kept locked at all times. Once through the gate you cross a wooden walkway and through yet another gate before you reach the Mere (no-more than 20 yards from car park to waters' edge).
I would estimate the Mere to be around half an acre in size. At its widest point it is about 20 yards across and it necks to almost half that in one place. It is about 120 yards long. As you enter from the car park you first reach the largest, deepest at 6-feet, open expanse of water at this venue. The further away from the car park you go the more densely (lily) padded the water becomes and much of this part of the Mere is about 4-feet deep.
It only takes a few minutes to circumnavigate the Mere and check out the numerous swims that are accessible. The bankside is relatively flat and grassed but there is no footpath. Around the waters' edge there are many mature trees and bushes which can restrict casting, so choose wisely before you begin. We fished twice, on a weekday each time, and there was never more than 4 fishing the Mere at any time, so there is plenty of choice in where you can fish.
My brother and I float fished with light tackle on both days - luncheon meat, corn, and prawn. What was clear was there was a lot of fish activity in the swim but these were, mostly, this seasons' fry and we needed to feed hard to get them to stop their interest in our baits. Anyway, we did manage to land some immaculate looking fish, including perch, roach, tench, and crucians. I thought the roach looked marvellous and my best was 1lb 9oz.
We only managed two crucians, with one of 1.5lbs and my personal best was 2lb - a dark coloured beauty. The fishing, here, is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. For sure, when you land a decent fish it may well be your PB, as in my case, but you will have to work hard for such rewards.